"Stearns Method" Critique

The following critique illustrates a methodology for preliminary evaluation of a proposed method for PWD racing. I have performed this evaluation manually on one example of the Stearns Method - 28 Car Schedule as published on the web on 1/20/96. (The site has since been "reorganized" and the referenced page sent into oblivion.) This 13 round chart is based on an estimated 1 hour racing time. This is not a complete evaluation, involving simulation of many repititions of chart application, and is, therefore, subject to possible error in the preliminary evaluation method.


Evaluation Criterion 1. "Is it fun?"

Does everyone get lots of racing in a reasonably short period of time?

Evaluation Criterion 2. "Is it fair?"

Can the method can be applied in a fair manner, i.e. in a way that no factors other than the Cub, the Car, and random chance affect the outcome of the races?

Here are some aspects of potential unfairness that can be avoided easily:

Evaluation Criterion 3. "Is it accurate?"

Some sources of inaccuracy in PWD racing:

None of these are "fairness" issues. They are measures of the racing environment into which the individual Cub may be inserted "by pure chance."

So how does this example of Stearns Method "stack up"?



Stearns Method has few peers in this measure. The method adapts readily to maximize use of the lanes and time available to provide racing for all the Cubs present.


Can be run fairly.

All of these can be accomplished rather easily for Stearns Method Charts.



The point is not that Stearns Method is a poor way to run a Pinewood Derby Competition. It is, in fact, one of the best and most fun ways to run a PWD to be found in the literature.

Rather, the point is that the method is improvable.

In its defense, minimizing pairing and lane assignment anomolies is not a part of the Stearns Method design criteria (at least as described in the literature which accompanied the software.) The stated criteria are (1) racing at least once in each lane and (2) racing against as many other opponents as possible. Criterion 1 is important if each car will race a number of times approximately equal to the number of lanes on the track. Criterion 2 is important if there are fewer possible pairings than actual opponents.


My challenge to the "world class game theorists" and "computer hacks" is this:

Devise a program which will balance lane assignments and opponent assignments within theoretical limits, while retaining the scheduling flexibility for which the Stearns Method has become renouned.

Watch out... there are some "critical values" which will require all your wits and resourcefulness to overcome.



I received this email requesting that I refer to the method by another name.
Latest update: 11/17/2008
Copyright 1997, 1998 © by Stan Pope. All rights reserved.